Introduced in 2016, the Mercedes-Benz GLC is a luxury compact crossover designed to compete with vehicles like the Acura RDX, Audi Q5, BMW X3, Infiniti QX50, Lexus NX, Porsche Macan and Volvo XC60 -- no small feat. Like most of its competitors, the 5-passenger GLC comes as a 4-door wagon with rear- or all-wheel drive.
For 2020, exterior changes include revised LED headlights and taillights, new front and rear bumpers, and a restyled grille. Under the hood there's a new turbocharged four-cylinder base engine that makes 14 more horsepower, a more-powerful engine in the AMG GLC 43 and a larger battery pack for the GLC 350e plug-in hybrid. Finally, all models get Mercedes' new MBUX infotainment system.
The model lineup consists of the GLC 300, GLC 350e, AMG GLC 43 and AMG GLC 63. GLC 300 models get a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 255 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of. The 350e adds an electric motor/battery combo for a total output of 315 horsepower. AMG GLC 43 models get a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that makes 385 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque. The line topping AMG GLC 63 comes with a turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 that makes 469 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque. All modes get a 9-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard on the GLC 300. All-wheel drive is optional on that model and standard on all others.
Prices start at $42,500 and include LED headlights, power liftgate and power-adjustable and heated front seats. The new MBUX infotainment system is anchored by a 10.25-inch touchscreen and also includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. Standard safety features include blind-spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking and a drowsy driver warning system.
The GLC 300's 255-horsepower turbo four provides ample motivation for this compact crossover. In fact, in all-wheel-drive trim the GLC 300 will scoot from 0 to 60 MPH in a scant 5.5 seconds. That's quite impressive given the 300 is the base model. Even better, the 9-speed automatic shifts imperceptibly and provides quick and positive downshifts when called upon. About the only fly in the ointment is a balky start-stop feature that produces a bit more shake and shudder than would be expected in a luxury vehicle.
Purists will appreciate the GLC's rear-drive pedigree, though it might not make the most sense. Not only from a packaging and economy standpoint, but also for buyers looking to save a bit of money since front-wheel-drive vehicles tend to have better traction in snow than rear-drive offerings. That said, Mercedes' 4Matic all-wheel-drive system is quite good, delivering power to the wheels with the most traction without hesitation. There's no 4WD low range though, so no off-roading here.
EPA ratings for the GLC 300 4Matic are 21 MPG city, 28 MPG highway and 24 MPG combined. Those numbers are a tick below most others in the class. Like most competitors, the GLC requires premium-grade gasoline. In routine suburban driving, expect to average about 24 MPG overall, perhaps as high as 26 MPG if you throw in a bit a gentle highway cruising.
On the road, the GLC lacks the driving dynamism of competitors like the BMW X3, Infiniti QX50 or Porsche Macan but, instead, delivers a quiet and comfortable ride that's more luxury than sport. Those looking for a bit more athleticism can, of course, opt for the AMG models. In the GLC 300, the suspension does an excellent job of softening harsh impacts without imparting too much bounce or head toss. Likewise, the all-season tires are a boon for wet-road traction. Steering has a solid on-center feeling and, though a bit slow lock-to-lock, provides good accuracy when rounding corners. Brakes have excellent stopping power.
Interior noise levels are impressively low with just a hint of wind and tire noise at speed. The GLC 300's engine is plenty quiet, even in hard acceleration. Though the same can't be said for the more-powerful engines in the AMG models.
Inside the GLC continues Mercedes' trend toward more modern and artistic interiors. Materials are clear cut above most competitors and build quality is impressive. Though there quite a few buttons, the design is clear and straightforward.
Front seats are quite comfortable and heavily padded. Head and leg room are good. The back seat, though nicely appointed, lacks knee room when the front seats are more than halfway back. (Remember, this is a compact, not midsize crossover.) Still, getting in and out is a breeze and outward visibility is good, though the thick pillars do create a few blind spots.
Drivers face a large and easy-to-read digital display that mimics traditional analog dials but can be configured to show additional information. Small buttons pepper the interior and steering wheel, which can be a bit frustrating at first. Mercedes' new MBUX infotainment system is literally front and center with a standard 10.25-inch screen at the top of the center stack. The system is controlled by touch sensitive pads on either a steering wheel or center console. You can also utilize complex voice commands to do things like raise the temperature, change the radio station or enter navigation destinations. Android Auto and Apple Car Play are supported, but don't utilize the center screen very effectively, leaving large blank spaces to the left and right.
Though the GLC has a fairly upright build, it is down a bit on cargo space when compared to competitors. Behind the rear seats the GLC offers just 19 cubic feet of cargo capacity and just 57 cubes with the seats down. The BMW X3 for example offers 29 and 63 cubes, respectively. Interior storage is also a mixed bag with a few open and covered bins throughout.
Bottom Line -- The Mercedes-Benz GLC tries very hard to please a wide audience, and, for the most part, succeeds. It is likely to win over shoppers with its powerful base engine, vault-like build quality, impressively detailed interior and comfortable seats. In base trim it is more American luxury than you might expect from the German brand. Opt for the AMG modes and you get plenty of sport. That said, prices tend to escalate quickly, so buyers need to be cautious when adding options.